The Inbound Ocean TEU Volume Index (IOTI), which measures maritime bookings for twenty-foot equivalent units for U.S. imports, is set to hit an all-time high this week. The IOTI starts in January 2019 but covers one of the most active periods in maritime shipping thanks to the pandemic. With imports being tied more closely than ever to surface freight volumes and transportation demand, this could be a signal of an extremely active summer for domestic surface transportation providers.
Import booking activity measures freight that will hit the U.S. two to six weeks in advance and has been connected to surface transportation volumes over the past year. After a quicker-than-anticipated recovery in consumer spending on durable goods last spring, shippers found themselves low on inventory and began placing orders at a record pace last May.
Whereas the connection between truckload and import volumes has not always been this close, the urgency of the past year has closed the gap between the time the freight is on the ship to the time it moves on a truck.
With many shippers caught off guard by changing consumer behaviors, there was no budget or plan for what occurred in most of 2020. Companies have found themselves playing catch-up most of the year, and the recent surge in consumer spending thanks to a new stimulus bill and…